I saw Masons at a Game Day event at the mall - a nifty thing to have at a mall if you ask me - and I was impressed by the simplicity of the game and how interesting it looked for that simplicity level. I usually don't do this, but I found an excuse to buy the game, and I played for the first time last night. Here's how the game goes, in a nutshell:
Masons is a game of building cities by surrounding space with Walls and Towers, and placing houses and Palaces on the board. On your turn, you first place a wall on any available line on the board, then you roll 3 dice which tell you what color tower you must place, as well as what color houses you must place. There are 5 colors of houses, and 1 side of the die is "wild" and lets you choose a color. There are 3 colors of towers. Anytime the required color is out of stock you can simply choose another color.
Towers go at either end of the wall segment, so unless you placed the wall next to an existing tower, you get to choose the color for other end in addition ot using the die's required color. Houses are placed 1 on each side of the wall.
So even with the luck of the die roll, you actually get quite a bit of control over what pieces go where.
When you place a wall such that it encloses a space, you have completed a city, and there will be a scoring round. Each player has the opportunity to play up to 2 cards out of their hand (you start with 6) in order to score points and then draw 1 new card, OR discard 1 card from their hand and draw 2 replacements. So sometimes you'll have to discard and draw, lest you run out of cards alltogether. The cards indicate conditions for which you score points, such as "Score 1 point for every Blue house and 3 points for every Blue Palace in the just-completed city" (a Palace replaces a pair of houses when a city is completed). Or "Score 2 points for every Gray tower on the board that's not part of a completed city."
The idea is to set up large scoring opportunities, Whan you complete a city, you have the option of removing a border between the new city and a neighboring city in order to make an even larger city.
The game ends when you run out of Walls, Towers, Houses, or Palaces, and the player with the highest score wins.
Masons was quick, fun, and very simple. I really felt like I could plan ahead and set up scoring opportunities, even though the dice decide which colored houses and towers go on the board (to an extent), and the cards you draw decide what you can get points for.
There's a neat catch-up mechanism where each time you score, the player in last place gets to cycle as many cards as he wants, which gives him a chance to find better scoring options.
As an onlooker pointed out while watching, Masons looks like an area control game, with the walls cordoning off space and colored houses all over the board, but really it's not because everyone gets a chance to score based on the cards in their hand. There is some advantage to being the guy who completes a city (and triggers a scoring round), as you have some say in the size of the city.
Not a bad game!